2015 Preakness Stakes Preview

By Anthony Kelzenberg Recapping the 2015 Kentucky Derby The race video is on YouTube, and for the Aussies that have not watched the race it may be worth watching. After setting a slow 800m tempo (for American dirt racing) of 47.34 seconds, eventual winner American Pharoah, runner-up Firing Line and third finisher Dortmund was opened up a gap on the field, and not one of the ralliers was able to muster a challenge in the last half mile, even though the closing fraction for that half mile was an achingly slow 51.73 seconds. Dortmund’s conditioning gave out first, but I think it was noteworthy that Firing Line was fairly strong to the line, even as he yielded in the last 80m to American Pharoah. How to bet the 2015 Preakness? The Kentucky Derby over its long history has been a tough handicapping puzzle – horses have preps not over one or two racing centers, but up to five racing centers (New York, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and California), and the top contenders rarely face each other, if at all, prior to the Kentucky Derby. After the Kentucky Derby is run, the crowd can easily decipher who were the best runners are. The Preakness, always run 2 weeks after the Derby, is basically a recasting of the Kentucky Derby with a smaller field (a maximum of 14, compared to up to 20 Kentucky Derby starters. Only 8 runners are entered this year’s Preakness) and the occasional “new shooter” that did not run in the Kentucky Derby. Given these constraints of extremely current form and a 2-week backup, prices on winners are very low. Here are the range of Preakness winning odds for the last 25 years: Odds on: 3 winners Between Evens to 7/2: 14 winners Over 7/2 but less than 10/1: 5 winners Over 10/1: 3 winners Note horses on the top three lines have betting have won the Preakness 17 of the last 25 years. Here are the Post Positions/Bet Numbers and Morning Line odds for the 2015 Preakness (In North America post position and betting number are the same 95% of the time):

  • American Pharoah 4/5 (odds on)
  • Dortmund – 7/2
  • Z – 20/1
  • Danzig Moon – 15/1
  • Tale of Verve – 30/1
  • Bodhisattva – 20/1
  • Divining Rod – 12/1
  • Firing Line – 4/1

On the cold dope American Pharoah, Dortmund and Firing Line are the only realistic chances. Judging by the odds history ‘Pharoah and Dortmund will be in the “sweet spot” of being in the range of Evens to 7/2. I think Firing Line will also get some significant support. So who to play? I can’t support #2 Dortmund off his last run. In the States, and at Woodbine and at Meydan in Dubai, there is a computer system that measures ground traveled to the nearest foot. Dortmund covered 70 less feet than American Pharoah. That is approximately 9 lengths, plus ‘Pharoah beat him on the square another 2 lengths – 11 lengths overall! I also think Dortmund will get significant pace pressure from Mr. Z on Saturday. Mr. Z is basically a Group 3 animal but he can put in a decent turn of foot for a mile. If Dortmund was 10/1 he might have some appeal, but the mediocre run in Louisville leaves me a bit cold. #1 American Pharoah won’t be able to get on anyone’s back with an inside draw. This horse has a lot of talent but he has never demonstrated a large turn of foot on the dirt – he’s more like an extremely fast grinder. The opportunity for ‘Pharoah to “box seat” is certainly there, but that would be something new for ‘Pharoah to try in a big race and I expect him to try to use the rail into the first turn if he can. Just on raw ability I will use ‘Pharoah in my Quaddie but his rail draw really hurts his chances, especially if the pace is more in the 46 second range for the 800m, which is what I expect. #8 Firing Line, in a swiftly run race, drew very well in Post 8. IF the field goes quickly early, Firing Line and all-world jockey Gary Stevens will have the horse in the right spot, quite possibly keeping American Pharoah in a pocket until they turn for home. The 100m shorter distance also plays into Firing Line’s hands as he is more a pure “1600m” horse. I have also heard a lot of noise that Firing Line is training extremely well for Saturday. Firing Line will be the key to my Quaddie and trifecta and a possible win bet also. Other Horses to Watch for Exacta and Trifecta #4 Danzig Moon, #7 Diving Rod , and #5 Tale of Verve are all horses that do not have the sheer brilliance to win the race but if the race is run extremely hard early they can all get in the trifecta at good odds. Summary: Horses at 7/2 or lower odds have won the Preakness 17 of the last 25 years (68%). This is because the Preakness very often just reconfirms the form of the Kentucky Derby. Selections: #8 Firing Line is my top selection because he’s fair value at 4/1 and the favorite might get a poor trip. #1 American Pharoah will be in my Quaddie somehow. He has the risk of being unders. #2 Dortmund just didn’t show enough in the Kentucky Derby. I think at 7/2 he’s heavily unders. #4 Danzig Moon, #7 Diving Rod , and #5 Tale of Verve can all get into the trifecta at good odds.